Thinking through customer experience details

When it comes to hospitality, I’m really picky. If I were a customer experience specialist for a hotel or Bed-and-Breakfast, I would look for all the “little things” that show attention to detail and caring—or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, in today’s institutionalized, bean-counter-obsessed world, talk is cheap. Everyone promotes their great customer service, but most fail to follow through on the level I expect.

Fortunately, there are exceptions. One of them lives in the small burg of Baldwin City, KS. It’s called rooms2stay, an AirBNB property. (Full disclosure: It also happens to be a house I owned and lived in for five years before returning to Denver.)

Now, my longtime friend and colleague Cathenry has transformed it into a really cool, classy bed-and-breakfast experience. While it’s homey, comfortable and exudes positive energy, it’s those “little things” that most impress me. Cat is a hospitality natural; she gets the care and feeding of guests, and how to make them feel welcome. (She lives on-site, and believes in the importance of continuous customer service improvement.)

rooms2stay in Baldwin City, Kansas

She also gets high marks for creativity in the décor. When I visit, a tree made entirely of stacked books in the dining room, in front of a bookshelf that covers the wall, wows me. When I stopped by recently, she was in the middle of some “upgrades.” One of them was installation of a tabletop fire pit on the front porch. (The camping-size propane tank affixes to the firepit through the table hole normally used for an umbrella. I was so taken that I brought one home. Thanks, Aldi!)

Cat just transformed one of those big wooden spools used by cable companies to unwind cable into a backyard table complete with a charcoal grill in the middle. The table(spool) top is tiled in pennies. Now, guests can barbecue their own meat, etc. as desired during their stay creating a special guest experience. What a fun idea! For me, that’s something that would resonate in my BnB selection process, whether or not I wanted to grill.

Fanciful food options abound in the breakfast menu. Cat is continually trying out new recipes for guests, supplanting the rather boring selection of fare found in many hospitality environments. For example, instead of using her muffin-and-egg/sausage/bacon maker for just those items, she keeps trying out new combinations—which is entertainment in its own right.

But, beyond everything else, it’s those little touches in the room that caught my attention and admiration. Although the place is air-conditioned, there’s a fan for those of us who can’t live without it. The beds are comfy and well-appointed. Each room has a creatively appointed desk area for those computer moments, and plenty of outlets. (I can’t tell you how important that’s become to me. Between my phone, smartwatch, computer, et al, ample outlets equate to ample appreciation.)

The clawfoot tub in the upstairs bathroom has red-painted toenails—a small but very whimsical and fun design touch.

The upstairs common area features a one-cup Keurig with REAL half-and-half (a must for me), along with the usual assortment of standard BnB items. You mention something to Cat, it typically shows up. (For me this last visit, that was Stevia for my coffee.)  A small fridge, on an upstairs landing outside the three rooms she offers, is conveniently loaded with refreshments and there are freshly baked cookies and snacks available.

There is whimsical outdoor art on the house that complements the traditionally decorated home that has its share of eclectic touches.

All in all, it works as an enjoyable, engaging place to stay. I frankly am amazed at how Cat has improved upon a stately, historic house fronted by a red brick road to make it serve as a charming  and safe hospitality establishment.

She actively seeks out, and acts upon suggestions—small and large alike—to make the experience even better. If major hotel chains would spend more time and money doing this instead of largely putting their resources into telling us how great they are already, the world would be a better place to stay.

Judging by the reviews, she’s hitting the mark.

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Legendary basketball player and coach John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” When it comes to customer service, those little details can make or break a company. That little extra bit of encouragement or support (or lack thereof) can make all the difference between a positive and negative experience—and a corresponding thumbs-up or thumbs-down review.

Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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